Let’s fix up a ThinkPad X300

I wanted a lightweight laptop as an on-the-couch programming machine to run PyCharm, Emacs, and make some things with Python. Something with a good keyboard, screen resolution higher than 1280x800, and one of those trackpoint mouse things. Budget: $200

I found the X300 pretty easily on Amazon, and the one review seemed pretty convincing. The 2008 MSRP was almost $3000; 2014 Amazon cost: $229. Done!

The Lenovo Thinkpad X300. Please note the retro keyboard spotlight just above the monitor.

The Lenovo Thinkpad X300. Please note the retro keyboard spotlight just above the monitor.

Pros:

  • 1440x900 screen resolution
  • 2.9 pounds
  • Trackpoint
  • Anecdotal evidence points to good keyboard

Cons:

  • Core 2 duo 1.2 GHz is a little dated, I guess
  • Maxes out at 4 GB ram (Maybe 8?)
  • Somewhat rare 1.8 inch drive
  • No card reader

To work!

The 64 GB SSD had been replaced by an 80 GB HDD (I knew that when I bought it, I'd planned on saving that drive anyway to keep the copy of Windows safe if I found someone who needed it more). A quick Amazon search turned up a 60 GB SSD for around $80. Seems reasonable, let's do it! (Current total: $309)

If I'd done a little more digging I would have found the mSATA-to-1.8-inch tray adapter. For the 60 GB SSD I put in it works out about the same price as the adapter+ an mSATA card, but the adapted mSATA seems to be a little cheaper for higher capacities.

Cons addendum:

  • Battery life is super terrible

Ok sure, the battery is like 6 years old now, and there's no telling what the elite executive previous owner was putting it through. I'll update if I can coax more than an hour out of it.

Other possible upgrades:

The slim optical drive is easily removable once you remove the keyboard and battery. You'll see a place under where the keyboard was that you can push it out some. I tried just pulling it out, ended up exerting more force than I was comfortable with while not budging at all. follow Robert Smith's advice and watch this video https://youtu.be/5bD1qXfmnfg

The drive bay can now host a 3-cell battery or a caddy that will hold a regular 2.5 inch drive.

The fun starts here

A completely un-staged action shot of Enlightenment running on Ubuntu. Bodhi Linux makes a most excellent Enlightenment installer.

A completely un-staged action shot of Enlightenment running on Ubuntu. Bodhi Linux makes a most excellent Enlightenment installer.

I don't recommend installing alternative operating systems unless you have time to spare and hair you don't mind pulling out. However, I do encourage it.

I installed Ubuntu 14.04 from an SD card plugged into a USB drive, then immediately installed the Bodhi Enlightenment Desktop because... well, because it looks amazing.

My super advanced operating system deployment device.

My hyper-advanced operating system deployment device.

Conclusion

Sure, you can get a new laptop for maybe a little more, but the X300 is a pleasure to code on. For me.

References

http://www.laptopmag.com/reviews/laptops/lenovo-thinkpad-x300

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00173CFP2/

http://www.amazon.com/Defantech%C2%AE-Ultrabay-ThinkPad-DVD-ROM-Optical/dp/B00IMCG7HS/

http://www.ubuntu.com/

http://www.enlightenment.org/

http://www.bodhilinux.com/

http://jeffhoogland.blogspot.com/2014/03/howto-add-bodhis-enlightenment-desktop.html

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5 Responses to “Let’s fix up a ThinkPad X300”

  1. Robert Smith Says:

    Thanks for this interesting piece on the ThinkPad x300. I’m in the process of refurbishing one of these wonderful laptops myself and found your suggestions on mSATA adapters and the drive bay caddy very helpful.

    A few points in your article that could be clarified, however.
    – The screen resolution on the ThinkPad x300 is 1440×900, not 1440×800
    – The actual maximum RAM is 8GB, although Lenovo did originally indicate a 4GB maximum
    – There is a screw on the underside of the computer that needs to be removed to take out the optical drive. You mention removing the keyboard and battery, but this isn’t necessary. There’s a short video here: https://youtu.be/5bD1qXfmnfg

    Thanks again for posting this!

  2. James Kersey Says:

    I’m glad it was helpful, and thanks for the input! I fixed my typo on the resolution, and I definitely have to try the 8GB upgrade. That optical drive screw doubles as a keyboard screw, which explains why it seemed to be totally fused in until I got the keyboard off 🙂

    If you discover anything else interesting about your x300, please let me know! I still like the feel of it better than the T440 I’m using for work now.

  3. Robert Smith Says:

    Here are a few other ThinkPad x300 links you might find interesting;

    Middleton BIOS: Unlocks SATA II (3 Gb/s) speeds (the stock x300 BIOS locks SATA speed at 1.5 Gb/s). Also removes the whitelist so a wider variety of wireless cards can be installed. http://forum.notebookreview.com/threads/t61-x61-sata-ii-1-5-gb-s-cap-willing-to-pay-for-a-solution.459591/page-116#post-9932632
    A comparison of SSD benchmarks before and after flashing the Middleton BIOS: http://imgur.com/hyYGXs8
    Confirmation that 8GB RAM works in the x300:
    https://forums.lenovo.com/t5/X-Series-ThinkPad-Laptops/X300-8GB-RAM-Memory/td-p/154617
    CPU overclocking modification: Pretty involved, but an interesting hack. (Site is in German)
    http://thinkwiki.de/X300

  4. hadr1an Says:

    @robert smith
    is Middleton BIOS worth it?
    i saw in another forum that SATA II is alredy unlocked in X300..
    is this true?
    thanks

  5. hadr1an Says:

    @robert smith
    is Middleton BIOS worth it?
    i saw in another forum that SATA II is alredy unlocked in X300..
    is this true?
    thanks

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